(Pagan) News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 5, 2008 — 4 Comments

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

The Staten Island Advance reports on a dispute between neighbors that involves a Pagan family and charges of religiously-motivated harassment.

“Ivy Colmer Vanderborgh, her husband and her mother live in one half of a duplex on Oceanview Avenue. Their Annadale neighbors say they are disrupting the neighborhood. But the Colmer Vanderborgh family claims those same neighbors are persecuting them because of their religion. Ms. Colmer Vanderborgh and her mother, Marlene Colmer, both practice Wicca. They contend that since their appearance on a Staten Island Community Television show about their religion in June 2006, neighbors have they have been verbally harassed, their car has been vandalized, their property damaged and their dog poisoned.”

The neighbor charged with masterminding their harassment denies any wrongdoing, claiming the family is loud, obnoxious, and paranoid. At this point all evidence in the case is circumstantial, so we have no idea if these Wiccans are truly being persecuted, or if they simply have a persecution complex.

It is reported that The Church of England has “serious reservations” about the looming abolishment of Britain’s blasphemy laws. While the archbishops, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu say they won’t oppose abolishment, they are “concerned” about the meaning and timing of the move.

“[The archbishops] say the government needs to be clear as to precisely why the offence is being scrapped. They argue that it should not be seen as a “secularising move” or as a general licence to attack or insult religious beliefs and believers. They say it is still too early to be sure how the new offence of incitement to religious hatred, which applies to all faiths, will operate in practice and that laws which carry “a significant symbolic charge” should not be changed lightly.”

These laws, while rarely invoked today, were once used to persecute Quakers, atheists, Unitarians, and other groups who threatened (or appeared to threaten) the Anglican Church’s primacy in England. They belong in the dust-bin of history along with laws against “witchcraft”.

Slate.com explores the history of the crotch-grab in Italy.

“It’s the seat of fertility. The crotch grab goes back at least to the pre-Christian Roman era and is closely associated with another superstition called the “evil eye” – the belief that a covetous person can harm you, your children, or your possessions by gazing at you. Cultural anthropologists conjecture that men would try to block such pernicious beams by shielding their genitals, thus protecting their most valued asset: the future fruit of their loins. Over the centuries, the practice shifted. Men covered their generative organs not only to defend against direct malevolence but also in the presence of anything ominous, like a funeral procession.”

The article also explains the ever-popular “corno” necklaces and the corna hand-sign (aka the “devil sign”) in the same context.

Groundbreaking Gaelic film “Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle” has finally acquired international distribution through Altadena Films.

“Young Films has secured a deal with Altadena Films, an international sales agent, to sell Gaelic feature film Seachd – The Inaccessible Pinnacle, around the world. Altadena will represent the film at the Berlin Film Festival then at markets and festivals around the world thereafter. For the international market the English title will be Seachd – The Crimson Snowdrop.”

For those who can’t wait that long, the DVD has been released in the UK, which means that Americans will need a region-free player to watch it. For my previous coverage of this film, click here.

Nobel Prize-winning Irish author Seamus Heaney has lashed out at the Irish government for their road construction through the sacred Tara Skreen valley (home of the Hill of Tara), calling it a “ruthless desecration”.

“I think it literally desecrates an area – I mean the word means to de-sacralise and for centuries the Tara landscape and the Tara sites have been regarded as part of the sacred ground … If ever there was a place that deserved to be preserved in the name of the dead generations from pre-historic times up to historic times up to completely recently, it was Tara … Tara means something equivalent to me to what Delphi means to the Greeks or maybe Stonehenge to an English person or Nara in Japan, which is one of the most famous sites in the world…”

While it looks like nothing can stop road construction now, campaigners are still working to halt construction and limit further development in the area.

In a final note, The Hamilton Spectator reviews a new e-book by Neil Jamieson-Williams entitled “A Field Guide to Modern Pagans in Hamilton, Ontario”, which resulted in an angry reply from the author over errors and “yellow journalism”.

“Ms. Fragomeni made no attempt to contact me either by telephone or email to inform me of when the article would be printed – in all probability, she boldly lied to me in our last phone call, knowing full well that the article would be in the Saturday paper. The presentation my book and myself in the article was a smear campaign. No mention is made of the publishing company or where the book is available. Finally, it is clear to me that Ms. Fragomeni has, at best, only scanned portions of the book — she has written an article about a book that she has not read.”

Maybe there is such a thing as bad publicity? In any case, I suppose that should be a warning to be careful where you send promotional copies.

That is all I have for now, have a good day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Chas S. Clifton

    In the comment on Witches’ Voice that you linked to, Jamieson-Williams writes,”I am prohibited by my employer from using my academic affiliation for any conference papers that I present, any journal articles or books that are published, or any other form of publication of my work.”What? I have taught at only two colleges, but I never heard of such a prohibition.Academic conferences, for example, always list the institutional affiliation of participants.I wonder about the guy.

  • Robert Mathiesen (Providence, RI)

    Correction: the comment suggesting that he is no longer a professor ar Mohawk is dated 2005; and later comments show him in the classroom again. My bad! So it doesn’t apply to whatever is going on now.

  • Robert Mathiesen (Providence, RI)

    Ugh, the comment to which I posted the correction seems to have gone lost in the ether.I had referred to his author page on Australopithecine Press’s web-site, where it says:”Neil holds degrees in anthropology and sociology and he is a Professor of social sciences at a college of applied arts and sciences in southern Ontario. He is not permitted to reveal his academic affiliation as his employer strongly disapproves of his research area and has demanded that Neil provide no academic affiliation for any conference papers that he presents, any journal articles or books that are published, or any other form of publication of his work.”So it appears to be a restriction placed on this one professor only because of his field of research.After forty years in the trenches of academe, I can well believe such a thing. All it would take is a few timorous, small-minded administrators.Then I had referred to the entries for him on Rate My Professors, where one comment implied that he was no longer connected with the college in question, but — as I did not notice at first — that entry was dated 2005.

  • Neil Jamieson-Williams

    Okay… This is Neil Jamieson-Williams speaking. Contrary to opinion expresed on Rate My Professors, I am still employed at M C of Applied Arts and Technology where I teach anthropology and sociology. The “academic” portion of our college is underappreciated by college management who would prefer that the college was 100% vocational only (like CDI). Faculty who engage in non-applied research and publication are viewed by management as exhibitting a form of deviant behaviour akin to public indecency — the college wants no connexion to any faculty research that is not applied research. They also don’t approve of Modern Pagans either.I am supposed to be presenting two methodological papers at the 25th Annual Qualitatives next month. I have worked it out with the conference organisers about my affiliation issue. Now, I just received email from management yesterday that I am not to attend the Qualitatives and that I must attend a conference on curriculum development that is scheduled on the same days. I am grieving this with the union, but that process takes months…P.S. By the way, Chas, this is why you never received those articles we discussed for The Pomegranate — not permitted by management.Neil Jamieson-Williams